Coffee Varieties (basics)

Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee

Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee or Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee is a classification of coffee grown in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica. The best lots of Blue Mountain coffee are noted for their mild flavour and lack of bitterness.

Over the last several decades, this coffee has developed a reputation that has made it one of the most expensive and sought-after coffees in the world. Over 80% of all Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee is exported to Japan.[1] In addition to its use for brewed coffee, the beans are the flavor base of Tia Maria coffee liqueur.

Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee is a globally protected certification mark, meaning only coffee certified by the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica can be labeled as such. It comes from a recognised growing region in the Blue Mountain region of Jamaica, and its cultivation is monitored by the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica.

The Blue Mountains are generally located between Kingston to the south and Port Antonio to the north. Rising to 2,300 metres (7,500 ft), they are some of the highest mountains in the Caribbean. The climate of the region is cool and misty with high rainfall. The soil is rich, with excellent drainage. This combination of climate and soil is considered ideal for coffee.



Hawaii is the only state in the United States that grows coffee, though several US territories also grow it.

Compared to Jamaican Blue Mountain, Kona's lower per-pound price yields a coffee whose quality is arguably more commensurate with its price. Located on the western coast of the island of Hawaii, Kona stretches twenty miles north-south and two miles east-west, and is divided into the North and South Kona Districts. Under federal and state regulations as well as federal trademark, only coffee grown here may be called Kona.

The Kona region constitutes somewhat less than half of the 7,600 acres devoted to coffee on the Hawaiian Islands; most of the remainder—approximately 4,100 acres—is on Kauai. Kona is the oldest continually planted region for Hawaiian Island coffees; most of the other Hawaiian coffees were planted during the 1980s on available fallow sugar lands after the demise of the Hawaiian sugar plantations.

Kona coffee, Var. typica, was first planted in 1829 and has continued to thrive; many of the trees are over 100 years old. Most of the 680 or so farms are less than four acres, although there are also a few huge estates. Due to the island's isolation and the state's strict import restrictions on agricultural products, minimal pest control is required and, as a result, no pesticides are used, nor may they legally be used. With a rainy growing season and a cool, dry harvesting season, the region is particularly well suited to coffee production.

As with Jamaican Blue Mountain blends, Kona sold as a "blend" may contain small quantities of Kona. In the state of Hawaii, coffee lableed "Kona blend" may by law contain as little as ten percent real Kona coffee; elsewhere, there are no set minimums. The Kona Kai scandal of 1996 was a notable instance of fraud: Costa Rican and Guatemalan coffee was relabeled and sold as Kona. This effected some changes in the sale of Kona, with a "100% Kona" certificate or a "Kona Coffee Council 100%" seal available.

All large quantities of unroasted Kona Coffee will have the Hawaii State Certification tag on the burlap bag; the consumer does not usually get to see these bags, but you might be able to ask the roaster to show them to you. Not all Kona farmers pay for certification—it is not required for the sale of roasted beans or smaller quantities of green—so legitimate Kona may not be specifically labeled as such. Buy directly from a Kona farm, or a well-regarded retailer you trust. Note that although Kona coffee farmers may meet the standards of fair drade center for technical reasons they cannot be certified as such.


Arabica vs. Robusta

There are two primary species of coffee beans produced around the world: Coffea Arabica and Coffea Robusta (commonly referred to as Arabica and Robusta). Arabica beans, which represent 70% of the world’s coffee production, are most commonly grown at altitudes over 2,000 feet. Arabica beans typically produce mild, flavorful and aromatic coffee with approximately half the caffeine content of the Robusta beans.

The top 10% of the world’s Arabica bean supply meets the quality standards of premium or specialty coffee production. Robusta coffees are grown at altitudes below 2,000 feet, produce higher crop yields and are typically more disease resistant than Arabica bushes. To control costs, supermarket quality coffee is often made from a blend of Robusta and Arabica beans. It is a myth that just because a coffee is Arabica it is necessarily of a higher quality or that all Robustas are of poorer cup quality.